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The Strife Of Ryan
He was the boy wonder of country rock before drugs, illness and an inability to rein in his creativity got in the way. Now Ryan Adams is hitched to a movie star and ready to proclaim himself an artist reborn. He talks about the long road to redemption and explains why he was never such a lost soul in the first place.
Ed Power, 24 Oct 2011
The way Ryan Adams sees it, the music industry is a lot like the birdhouse business. Allow him to elaborate. “If I want to go and buy a birdhouse for my garden, I don’t want to fucking go to a guy who’s built like, six birdhouses, because it took him four years to do each one,” he says. “I’d go a master craftsman who builds birdhouses because they are his passion.”
We are discussing Adams’ reputation as a workaholic and control freak. Since his 2001 break-out LP, Gold, the mercurial poster-child for alternative country has churned out albums at roughly the same rate the Greek government has been racking up unaffordable debt. There have been solo records, band projects (three in 2005 alone), even a surprisingly decent death metal sci-fi concept LP. The perception is that, by flooding the market, he is diluting the brand and squandering his talent.
Adams, whose latest release Ashes And Fire has been hailed as his most heartfelt and accomplished of the past decade, doesn’t share that view.
“I have never,” he insists, “regarded it as a negative to love what you do and to be serious about it. It's strange to me that anyone else would have that opinion.”
He's equally vexed by what he regards as the media’s ongoing campaign to paint him as a drug casualty. For sure, he had his wild spell, snorting speedballs (a mixture of cocaine and heroin) and going on solitary bar crawls during which he slammed so much whiskey it was probably dangerous for him to stand near an open flame. But that, he points out, was a loooong time ago. He’s been teetotal for approaching six years.
“I haven’t been to bars drinking since the winter of 2005. By 2006 I was sober. I never went to rehab. I never went to meetings. I don’t go to AA. I didn’t have to go to any kind of treatment. I didn’t think about it at all. It was less a part of my life than people make it out to be. To say I went off the rails was ridiculous. I’ve been sober since the middle of the last decade.”